Stormers have much work to do
The one good thing about the DHL Stormers confirming their top position on the Vodacom Super Rugby log with a sub-standard performance against the Rebels, is that it means they are not getting carried away with the achievement.
It was the first time in their history that the Stormers had finished top, and as coach Allister Coetzee pointed out, that does make them the highest achieving team in the history of the franchise.
But they want to go all the way to the trophy, and Coetzee knows they won’t be doing that if they repeat the mistakes they made in their 26-21 win over the Rebels.
“It has been really tough, and you have to give credit to the players. The hard work has paid off, and the management team has been outstanding,” said Coetzee.
“But we are definitely not happy with the performance (against the Rebels). It can only be the Crusaders, Bulls or Sharks that we play in two weeks' time, and we all know that against those teams this performance would not be good enough.
“So we have a heck of a lot of hard work to do. The good thing though is that we know it, and maybe finishing off the league stage of the competition on a bit of a false note was better for us than if we had won comfortably. It means we are under no illusions that we have to improve.
“Sometimes finishing strongly can lead to a false sense of security. I am thinking of last year, when we went into the semifinal against Crusaders at home and lost.”
Coetzee said that in trying to put his finger on where his team fell short against the Rebels, the thought that kept going through his mind was the nervousness that came with starting the game knowing they were playing to top the log and the expectation that came with that.
“If you look at the Brumbies today, they were playing for a conference point to qualify for the play-offs and the pressure got to them. The Chiefs were playing for No 1 and the pressure got to them too. The pressure also took it’s toll on us today, but we won, and that is something that I am pleased with.
“We didn’t have the energy and enthusiasm we normally have. The players were complaining about feeling tired and that’s probably got something to do with the pressure of the occasion. I am sure though that the focus will be different when semifinal time arrives. The players got tired quickly today, maybe it was the nerves.”
Coetzee targeted execution as an area that would have to be improved in a semifinal, where he stressed that the Stormers’ poor try-scoring record – they won 14 out of 16 games but never scored a four-try bonus point – would not be a factor.
“We are in the play-off stage of the competition now, and we all know that teams tend to become conservative and don’t risk that much in that phase. Look at the World Cup final last year – the All Blacks scored only one try and they are supposed to be a great attacking team.
“What we can’t get wrong is our execution, and some of the mistakes of the past few weeks, such as Joe Pietersen missing touch with his kicks, cannot be repeated if we are to win the semifinal.”